Sunday, September 30, 2007

Picture Day

Who loves picture day? Parents, that's who! Parents who are not actually AT picture day, because they imagine only the moment of the snap and flash of the camera, not the actual trek down the hall, attempting to keep the little cherubs lined up quietly, looking their adorable best, every hair in place. All the outfits carefully chosen, all evidence of dirt and colored markers absent from pink cheeks.

In actuality, it's quite a different scenario. ESPECIALLY with a group of autistic children, some of whom have huge difficulty entering strange rooms, like a school gymnasium, where a pin drop sounds like a huge gong, so forty children, some of whom scream when they feel anxious, sounds like a Super Fast Train whistle blowing directly into your eardrums.

But you know what? They did it! They all, well, almost all, sat down for the group picture (one sweetie couldn't be persuaded to enter the room), and they all managed to smile for the camera and sit still while the photographer snapped away. They even got in line AGAIN to sit for the individual pictures, and while some of them had to have a bit of help to stand or sit in one place, we all survived. They were amazing, all of them troupers, and we were all so proud of them. And now, picture day is over, until the spring, when we get to do it all again.

Now, as a mom, I get to look forward to Joe-Henry's picture day, which is this coming Tuesday. He asked if he could wear his tuxedo that he wore for his cousin's wedding last April, and when I told him we had actually returned that after the wedding, he asked if we could buy one. I took him out shopping yesterday, getting him to agree to a shirt and tie, paired with an almost too small sport jacket. Yes, I know he'll look like the youngest banker ever, but that's what he really wants to wear. It just makes me giggle - his dad wears a kilt, his mom wears jeans, and his favorite thing to wear makes him look like Alex P. Keaton. I let him wear it all afternoon, making him take it off only to play baseball with the kids next door. He complied, but only after saying a hundred times "but mom, I look so HANDSOME!!" I told him that baseball players only wear a tie post-game, but they would never slide into home in a sport coat. Geez. If he wants to rebel in later years, all he needs to do is join The Young Republicans. As long as he doesn't become a lobbyist for Big Tobacco.

I'll try to keep him out of it for a couple days so we can keep it clean for Tuesday. He'll be all spic-n-span, hair just so, face shiny and clean. All his little classmates lined up, eager but quiet as mice, opening their mouths only when instructed to say "Cheese!".

I can just picture it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This Makes Me Hot

I just ordered this gorgeous little item from Amazon, refurbished, for $87.00.

Since our cat has declared war on us (she has been on a campaign for the last 6 years and 10 months to send Joe-Henry BACK WHERE HE CAME FROM) and keeps pooping on the carpet, I found something that will make my mornings (and afternoons) a little easier.

Free Shipping, too.

I'm damp with anticipation.

Curriculum Night

Last night was Curriculum Night at JH's school, and while I love the teachers and staff at his school, and some of the kids are really amazing, his school has more than his share of, shall we say, problem children. Or, to be more accurate, problem parents.

I didn't have my camera with me, but I will draw you a word picture:

About ten kids, ages six to eleven, fighting with each other on newly poured bark chips, throwing the bark chips at each other and all over the place, wrapping the swings around and around until they were unreachable, screaming and hitting each other, while some of their parents did:

Nothing. Well, that's not exactly true. They ate their hot dogs and smoked their cigarettes and talked to each other, occasionally scratching their bellies.

When I walked over and confronted the kids and told them not to do that, they didn't even stop. But they did look at me and laugh and one of the fifth graders told me that JH takes his bus. Was that a threat, kiddo? Because you have no idea what will happen if you lay one hand on my child. No. earthly. idea.

I consider myself to be pretty liberal, with a live-and-let-live view most of the time, but some people should not be allowed to have pets, much less children.

Oh, and JH? He's doing great in school, his teacher loves him, the principal made a point of telling me that "he is the most enthusiastic first grader" she's ever met.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fall's Booty

Yesterday was the perfect fall day, even though technically, Autumn didn't arrive until 2:51 this morning. That's merely semantics, though, because while the calendar might have still read "Summer", Fall was in the air, from the crisp apples at the Farmer's Market, to the nip in the air and the fluffy white clouds.

We celebrated by attending a very Portland event: The Portland Pirate Festival. This city takes it's pirates veeeerry seriously, and while we had a good time, both Charley and I were stumped about the attraction. There were a million stalls selling VERY well made and VERY expensive pirate gear. From the beautifully crafted swords to the authentic costumes, many people were dropping some serious dubloons.

There were swashbucklers and swishbucklers and whole-family-pack-bucklers. Pirates of every stripe. And of course there were pirate themed bounce houses for the littlest pirates. There was even a pirate ship that we managed to tour for five minutes. And of course there was pirate food: Corn dogs and kettle corn and fried oysters. Yummmmmm.

My favorite part of the day, besides being with my amazing family, was being able to haul my camera out of the dust and take a million pictures. There was such a bounty of pictitude, I was vibrating with happiness while I clicked away. The most amazing thing about the event wasn't even the people, it was the setting: under the glorious, and I mean GLORIOUS St. John's Bridge.

It was a feast for the eyes. The weather changed every thirty seconds from warm enough to take off your jacket to chilly enough to put it right back on.

At the end of the day, I even talked my husband into stopping at my favorite abandoned building in Vancouver to snap a few pics. I wasn't alone - there were a few other people there taking pictures, so I didn't have the place to myself like I wanted, but it was enough to give me a start. This building is the reason I wanted a good camera.

Today is cold and cloudy, and definitely not summer anymore. But yesterday? AAAARRRRRR, me hearties, yesterday was FINE.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Renaissance Boy

He writes stories at bedtime

and plays music in the morning

Two new reasons I am counting the days

There are plenty of reasons that I am counting the days until George Bush is out of office, the least of which is that I find it incredulous that someone that cannot pronounce "Nuclear" should be allowed anywhere near the red button.

But should you need any further reasons, here are two really good ones:

Senator blocks presidential-records bill

Bush: Kids' health care will get vetoed

November 2008 cannot come soon enough.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

amazing, but true

One of the kids I have in my group has some real behavior challenges, and he's always saying "I don't like...", "No, Anne", and "Anne's not feeling well" (when he wants me to be sent home!). I had just put him in his third break in a row and when he said it again, I just put my head on my knees, and he put his arm around my neck and said "Hi, Anne." His eyes were pleading and I realized that I just cannot show frustration, because he can't help it. I just have to try a new road with him. At recess he and I had such a nice conversation, and he looked me in the eyes and asked me questions and answered my questions. He slays me.

On a hugely positive note, one of the more severely affected kids in our class made a huge breakthrough today, when it was discovered (through pointing to words) that he could read.

When his aide told me, at the end of the day, and then showed me the note he wrote (with her help) to his mom, I burst into tears.

Then to top it off, I get to come home to my kid, my sweet, happy boy, who is starting (don't tell him though) to love first grade. He snuggles next to me on the couch and tells me about everything, and I am so happy I could pop. It's a far cry from last year when getting him to tell me what went on was like pulling teeth. He's even picked up on the book he started writing last spring break called "A Cat's Adventure." He found the pages he'd started back in April, and looked at his words and said "Mom, I was sort of a babyish writer in kindergarten, wasn't I?"

These kids will be the death of me.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What Would You Do?

If your child was sent home from school with chickenpox on Friday, would you send him back to school on Monday? Would you yell at the teacher and the principal and refuse to take your child - your sick child who is miserable and covered in spots - home?

I know I wouldn't.

Monday, September 17, 2007

When My Own Words Bite Me In The Ass

I've been on Joe-Henry lately about putting things away, making sure to hang up his coat and backpack when he comes home, and pick up his toys when he's done playing. He'll throw his jacket on the couch, and I'll ask him if that's where it goes.

Today when we got home from work and school and meetings and I plopped my tired booty on the couch and flipped off my shoes, letting them land with a thump onto the floor, he cocked his head, folded his arms and said:

"Mom? Is THAT where your shoes belong?"

At least he's listening.

Now I Remember...

....why I went into the arts! Because I am incapable of concentrating on things like health insurance and life insurance and retirement. If you're in the arts, you never worry about that stuff, because you know you have made a decision to go to the community health clinic for the rest of your life, amen, and you don't have to make a choice between Plan A and Plan B on the blue paper with the tiny, tiny writing.

Charley has made all the grown up choices already with his HR people at Apple, and I have gone along and said "Great Choice!" not being fully aware of the details, just the general knowledge that we have some coverage. Now I have to go through everything with a fine-toothed comb and make decisions like a grown up.

I see those words and numbers on the page and I just want to take a nap.

Still loving the job, though.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Glamourous Life

Once upon a time, I dreamed of becoming an actress. Not a star, but a working actress, like Marsha Mason in "The Goodbye Girl". I wanted to struggle, and do bad theater that no one came to see, and work my way up to occasionally do a commercial or a small part in a movie so that I could get residuals and not have a day job. For a while, I lived the dream. I had all the requisite day jobs on my way, too - A bartender at Chucky Cheese's right out of college, a sandwich maker in a deli (I still make the meanest sandwich in town!), and a secretary. I eventually did enough regional theater that THAT was my day job, and I loved every minute of it. But then it kind of dried up, so the man I had met and married while livin' the dream, suggested a move to Los Angeles. I had never considered LA. It seemed dry and made of cardboard and glitterglue. But the town we lived in was becoming a big city and they weren't hiring locals so much anymore, they were hiring TV stars to do plays, because in order for them to make money they needed to put butts in the seats, and if you're on TV, well, that is just the pinacle of success. So we packed out belongings and headed south.

I never worked in LA. I had a commercial agent that I hated (and not just because he had horrible hairplugs) a theatrical agent who took me on because I worked as an assistant for a casting agent (another day job), and he figured he could get people in for auditions. He never once got me an audition for anything, but he did take me to lunch once. Then, after much consideration that fabulous man I married and I decided to get pregnant. From that day forward, our lives would be turned upside down, and I would re-evaluate everything I had ever thought would make me happy. I stopped dreaming and started living, and I have never ever regretted it for a moment.

LA proved to be a difficult place to be financially unless you were raking in the big showbiz money, and since there had been a Screen Actor's Guild strike the year Joe-Henry was born, my fabulous, talented husband made the choice to get a day job, something he had managed to avoid his whole career. And since neither of us was in showbiz anymore, we made a decision as a family to move to a place that was more hospitible to our wallets. I always knew that a time would come that I would go to work when JH went to school full time, but doing what? What was I qualified to do? I have decent computer skills, but I am by no means a geek; I have a good eye for design, and like to tackle artistic projects, but have no business sense; and most importantly, I wanted to find something that would allow me to be around for my most important job: Mom. I didn't want a job shuffling papers in an office, and while being social at the local coffee place sounded great, I doubted that it was something that would actually make a difference in anyone's day but mine. I wanted somewhere to put my heart and mind for six hours a day, somewhere close to home, somewhere that took all my various skills and mixed them up in a new and challenging way.

My sister suggested the school district. Hey! That's an idea! I'd have the same hours and vacation time as Joe-Henry! So I quickly whipped my resume into shape in July, peddled myself madly to every interesting job within five minutes of my house, and soon found my dream job: working as a staff assistant to autistic kids at a school near my home. I was hired as a substitute, but have quickly learned that I will be there every day, and hopefully move to a permanent position soon. I work with another person on a team with four kids, who I have quickly fallen in love with. There are nineteen kids in our unit, and fifteen staff assistants and two teachers. The staff is incredible - passionate, caring and raucously good humored. The kids all vary in their abilities and ages, and they all melt my heart.

I have become a better mom in the last two weeks too. Of course part of that is that my son is at school himself, being challenged to his full potential, and even though there have been moments of fear and nervousness, I know he'll blossom in his classroom, just like he did last year in kindergarten.

So that's what I've been up to. A couple of you have commented with your congratulations on my new job, even though you're not sure what it is I'm doing. I've held off talking about it because it felt so huge - I didn't want to jinx it, and honestly, when I come home any coherent communication is saved for keeping some kind of order in my house, and even then it's mostly a sentence fragment "Jacket off the floor,please". I'm trying to stay healthy (there was a chickenpox outbreak in our classroom yesterday) and whole and be a good mom and wife, and learning to be better at time management and all that stuff. I'm hoping my blogging brain comes back soon, but in the meantime, know I'm appreciative of each of you for popping in to say hi, and check in even though there's not a heck of a lot going on on my blog.

I'm sure there will be stories, with the names changed to protect the innocent and the guilty (does that mean I can change my name, too?!), and if the past two weeks are any indication, they will be a hoot. So hang in with me, and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

mulling it over...

I realize that I've been really negligent attending to this blog - I'm sure you are all just holding your breath for news from the homefront. (No?!) The thing is - I haven't worked outside my house in umpteen years, much less worked a job that had me on my feet - RUNNING - most of the day. You know, aside from motherhood, but I had trained JH so I could slow down to a jog for the last few years. Who am I kidding - he trained ME, and took pity on his sweaty, panting mother. Anyway, the thing is, I've been really ambivelent to blog about this because a) I don't want to get in trouble, even though I have no intentions of naming my place of employment or any of the people I work with, and b) the most important reason: I don't want to jinx it because I'm really loving it so, so much. Also, by the end of the day, I have no words left. None. Well, a few, but I have to save those for the people I live with, because I like them and want to continue to live here.

But this weekend, stay tuned. I promise to bring you "Adventures from Outside My House".

I do want it to be known, that I have so enjoyed all of your blogs lately, and your comments on my measly offerings. I am grateful for your generous spirits!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I love my new job so much.

Helping one of the little guys I work with do a yoga pose today, he looked up at me and said "You're not ugly!"

Thanks kiddo!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


My best pal sent this to me, and since it seems that all my creative energy is taken up by the new job and keeping up with everything else around our house, I thought I'd cheat and post this. It made me giggle.

Monday, September 10, 2007


This morning, Joe-Henry was so tired from way too many activities this weekend, all he wanted was to curl up on my lap and cry. He was so brave, getting ready for school, but I worry of course, that I'll get a call mid-day that he's sick. Poor kid. I wanted so badly to be able to stay home with him and let him rest. Next time I'll listen to my instincts, the ones that told me yesterday before we got out the door to drive to Seattle for a birthday party, that we were doing too much.

We will not be over-achieving again anytime soon. The rest of the week, the biggest thing on our calendar is a PTO meeting and a trip to the library. And I promised him that this afternoon, as soon as he got home, we'd curl up for a short nap and some prime snuggle time to talk about our days. Of course, I know that by the end of the day, he'll be ready to play and go, go, go, having had a blast at school, and snuggle time on the big bed is something that I will only be able to wish for, but a girl can dream, can't she?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Company Picnic

Who knew that companies even HAD picnics anymore? Aren't they too busy downsizing and pillaging from retirement funds and pensions to throw picnics? Apparently not companies that are trying to cure cancer. My (for lack of a better term) sister-in-law Judy works as a research nurse for clinical trials with cancer patients, and the company that she works for held a great bash at Kelly Point Park in Portland, where the Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet. She was kind enough to bring Joe-Henry and I along for the fun, and after our big week, we were ready to cut loose a bit.

It was a breathtaking day, too, blue sky, great breeze and just enough warmth to make a Sno-Cone extra tasty. There were about seven inflateables there:

the ubiquitous bounce house, and the inflatable slide, the sparring ring AND the inflatable cage match, the inflatable jungle gym, and the inflateable back breaker, which looked like fun, but had Judy asking for ibuprofen about an hour afterward.

There was a puppet show put on by this RenFaire Pirate guy with super long hair, who attracted all the kids to the show with this really cool balloon, that was partially filled with helium so it floated just a tiny bit.

There was EXCELLENT barbecue, as well as beans and macaroni salad, potato salad, watermelon, cookies and SNO-KONES!

Mine was rootbeer flavor and it was excellent. Joe-Henry's was bubblegum flavored and it took a while to get the blue off him in the tub tonight.
I'm not sure what flavor this little angel's mama was having, but I don't think it mattered one little bit to her!

Joe-Henry climbed the slide thing about five hundred times (I'm serious. I stopped counting after twenty).

He climbed, and he climbed,

and he climbed,

and when he wasn't climbing he was waiting in line to climb some more.

In four hours, he sat down only long enough for the puppet show.

It was kind of crazy, goofy bad, but the kids loved it, until it went on a bit too long and everyone got a bit more interested in the caterpillars that seemed to be everywhere.

There were egg races and sack races and bingo, and for four hours today, it felt like the good old days, only better. I mean, working to cure cancer AND free Sno-Kones?

C'mon. It doesn't get any better than that.

Friday, September 7, 2007

In Honor of Joe-Henry's first week of First Grade

You're the Shanghai Transrapid!

Obsessed with magnets and the general study of physics,
people have often accused you of being a little nerdy. This time it's paid
big dividends, however, as you've proven that something others only
speculated about can be done. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel,
you've come up with something creative and yet simple and practical. Taking
a brief break from science, you are sometimes known to meditate as well,
achieving slight levitation when you really focus.

Take the Trains and Railroads Quiz
at RMI Miniature Railroads.

Got this off Lolabola's blog Chipompompom.

I knew I had to do it, because I have a boy who is nuts for trains.

Here are a few pics of his beloved Max Trains.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My First Day...

....and I'm still alive.

Honestly, though, I'm so excited. I love the staff, I love the kids, and I love working with kids of different abilities. I feel like all my weird background jobs from when I was an actor are perfectly suited to this. I'm in this strange state between completely exhausted and completely energized. I look forward to tomorrow, but I'm glad it's Friday! Although Charley goes to Banjo camp for the weekend, and we have a company picnic and another trip to Seattle in one day on Sunday. Oh my.

Is 4:00 p.m. to early for bed?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


We have had a busy day today, what with the first day of school, potentially the first day of work for me (still waiting to hear from the district re: my background clearance) and getting to spend lots and lots of time waiting to get things straightened out after the theft of my wallet this weekend.

Joe-Henry was killing me last night at bedtime. He suddenly got so nervous about going to school ALL DAY and being in FIRST GRADE, and suddenly becoming a problem child whose misbehavior will surely bring down the wrath of his teacher and send him to the principal's office. Can I just say, as much as he can test ME, he would no more get sent to the principal for behavior problems than I would suddenly develop a keen interest in NASCAR. He is a model citizen at school, and sometimes I worry that he tries too hard to be good. Does that make any sense? Anyway, this morning I woke him up at 7:00, and fed him breakfast. He wrote a note to his new teacher that said "From Joe-Henry. Dear Mrs. Grammer, I am excited about the first day of school. (PS) I am a little nervous, too." As he walked down the hill to the bus, he was holding back tears. He didn't even kiss me goodbye, he just walked right up onto the bus, without looking back. I waved mightily at the kids I could see in the windows, some from his class last year, but I couldn't spot my boy. It kills me that he tried so hard to be brave all by himself. As much as I want him to be independent and learn to take care of himself that way, it's still hard to see my little man take that step away from me.

After I dropped him off, I got to spend the whole morning at the DMV and the Social Security office getting my stuff replaced. Can I just tell you how glad I am that I don't work at the Social Security Office? Um, just really, really glad.

It's almost 2:00 p.m. and I have yet to hear back from the District Office. I don't know when I'll start work, but I assume it's going to be this week sometime. I'm kind of glad that we're not dealing with two firsts today, though. In two weeks, we'll be back in the groove, feeling a bit more settled. Well, at least one of us will.

Monday, September 3, 2007

If September 4th is your birthday....

You are a stickler for managing and organizing your finanacial affairs but never get the hang of learning from your experiences. You cannot manage the restlessness you feel as a youngster and leave your community to break with traditions. Basically you are down to earth and determined to be successful. It is the uncertainty and surprises of childhood that tax your methodical mind. Mid-life offers you the chance to meet people and experiences that recognize just how dependable you really are. As a child, you must be wiser than your years.

From your late twenties to your early fifties, you are productive and constructive. You are a habitual worker and practic your skills with a determination to see financial results. You want material success and to live comfortably. Real estate, farming, construction businesses, physical fitness programs and military service are stepping-stones for your technical applications. Manufacturing offers an opportunity for you to see a tangible result and a profit.

It is necessary for you to buld consistently for the future and to put your physical energy to the test. Unused energy results in destructive activities. You can be very obedient or refuse to follow any pattern.

Love and work do not meld during your early years. It's one or the other. When you reach late years, you handle your self-imposed discipines without imposing them on your family or lovers. You are devoted, trustworthy and sincere. However, your youthful follies may be a tough act to follow. You grow far from your place of birth and find life after age fifty rewarding.

From "You Are Your Birthday" by Ellin Dodge

Happy Birthday to Kimberly! If this isn't insightful, I hope it's at the least amusing.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

A Bad Omen

I woke up this morning, and poured the remainder of yesterday's coffee into my favorite mug. I put it in the microwave while I made a fresh pot. I'm an impatient girl when it comes to coffee. I want it hot and I want it now. You don't want to come between a Lutheran and their first cup of coffee. Even a lapsed Lutheran like myself. We take the dark brew very, very seriously. Anyway, this particular cup was a favorite because my brother got it for me - it's the perfect size and shape, and it commemorates the 100 year birthday of the church I was raised in as a kid. I broke it once, and my sweet big brother replaced it. I promised, I vowed never to break it again.

Well, you can see where this is going, can't you?

My favorite cup fell out of my hand, just like that. And I knew, I just knew in my heart that no good would come of it.
I was so right.

About half an hour later, I decided to go online and see about getting tickets to the circus, which was in town for one last day. Joe-Henry and his dad met a sweet boy at the park yesterday whose parents work with the circus, and they live on the train. So Joe-Henry said he wanted to go, and I thought it might be a fun way to spend an afternoon. So I choose my seats online and go to pay for the tickets.

Where's my wallet?

I check my purse and it's not there, I check the backpack I carried yesterday when we went for a bike ride and it's not there either. Then I remember: I took it to the store last night when my brother and his girlfriend were over, and we went to get ice cream for dessert. I just grabbed the wallet, which I never do, and paid for everything and came home. As we were driving up to our house, there were a bunch of kids playing baseball in the yard with JH, Charley and my brother. I'd seen one of them around, but didn't recognize the other two. They were all standing right in my parking spot, so I was distracted when I parked the car and left my wallet just sitting there.

Oh. And I didn't lock my car door either.

So as I ran out to my car this morning, sweat dripping from armpits and my stomach going cold, I looked frantically inside and didn't see it. As I went to the driver's side door, and went to open the car, it opened, sickeningly without any effort, like someone had already been there, and to be polite to the sleeping owner, closed it without bothering to latch it.

Suck my D*#k, MotherF&^#$@R!!!

So I spent the morning on the phone with the credit card companies, the bank, and filing a police report online because NO ONE WAS THERE BECAUSE IT'S A HOLIDAY WEEKEND. I got signed up for credit theft protection, because not only was my driver's license in the wallet, but my social security card too. I know, I know. Never EVER carry both at the same time. But I just like to tempt fate that way. Ohhhhhh man.

I'm not sure how they are going to check my background without my id at the school district on Tuesday, but I'll just have to go with the flow and let people figure I'm an idiot who leaves her wallet in her car for anyone to take.

We still went to the circus - renegade that I am, I drove without my id to the train station, went to get money from my husband (who is being way nicer to me than I deserve), and laughed for a little while at someone besides myself. Joe-Henry has been soooo sweet today ("It's okay mom. It was a mistake. Those dumb smackbottom walletnappers!!! I wish I could find 'em - I'd get your wallet back and tell 'em they are STOOO-PID!!!")

The moral of this story? Well, there's a couple.
Don't ever leave your wallet in your car.
Don't ever keep your social security card in your wallet.

And don't ever, ever break the sacred Lutheran coffee cup on a Sunday morning. It's just bad luck all around.